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on May 21, 2000
I have been thinking about this book more and more ever since I saw the rascist, effusive film "Snow Falling on Cedars". My big gripe with that film was that it made the Japanese Americans look so weak and helpless without white people to rescue them from their predicament.
For those of you who disagreed with my review of that film, I strongly urge you to read (or re-read) "Farwell to Manzanar". This is a frank, accurate, and at times heart-breaking, true story of a Japanese family's internment in the camps. The narrative contains several different threads including:
1. The legal and economic injustice done to the author's family and thousands of other Japanese Americans.
2. The day to day life and survival requirements in the camps.
3. The difficulty of coping with generational differences within an interned Japanese-American family.
4. The difficulties and predjudices that Japanese Americans had to overcome in order to rebuild their lives after they were released.
Ms. Wakatsuki-Houston's memoir is simple and compelling. She describes her childhood experiences from the objective and mature perspective of an adult, a wife, and a mother. But despite the passage of time her narrative still conveys a great deal of pain and difficulty in coming to terms with her childhood internment at Manzanar.
The most interesting part of the book for me was how the author's family attempted to rebuild their lives after the U.S. government robbed and humiliated them. The father immediately started a farming venture whose success was only undermined by unsually adverse environmental conditions. One of the sons served in the military and then resumed the family's fishing business. And the author herself challenged the pedjudiced administration of her highshool by becoming prom queen despite their attempts to thwart her.
Contrary to the wishful thinking of "Snow Falling on Cedars", the white people in this book do not come back and redeem themselves. They do not rescue the people they victimized, and they do not receive bows from them. No woman begs the white man for permission to put her arms around him.
The people in this memoir endure their mistreatment with strength and dignity. When they are released from the camps, they rebuild their lives on their own without assistance, sentimentality or self-pity.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about a shameful period in American history, and who wants to see how people who are treated unjustly can still survive and move on. But most of all, I recommend this book to people who were taken with the Hollywood version of what happened to Japanese Americans in this country during World War II.
11 comment160 of 171 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
"Farewell to Manzanar" is by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. In a foreword Jeanne Houston notes that this book, which tells about the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II, is a true story. "Farewell" is a rich and fascinating chronicle. The Houstons follow the lives of the members of the Wakatsuki family before, during, and after the experience of internment.
The narrative is full of compelling details of the family's experiences. It is particularly intriguing to watch how the internment camp evolved into "a world unto itself, with its own logic"--a "desert ghetto." During the course of the book the authors discuss many important topics: religion, education, anti-Asian bigotry, the impact of the Pearl Harbor attack, the military service of Japanese-Americans during the war, and more.
The Houstons write vividly of the dislocation, humiliation, and injustice faced by the Wakatsuki family. Also powerful is the narrator's struggle to come to terms with her own ethnic identity.
For an interesting companion text, I would suggest "Desert Exile," by Yoshiko Uchida; this book also deals with the internment experience, but from a somewhat different perspective which complements that of the Houstons. I was moved by "Farewell." The book is a profound meditation on both the hope and the tragedy of the United States, in which the "American dream" can become intermingled with American nightmares. I consider this book an important addition to Asian-American studies in particular, and to the canon of multiethnic U.S. literature in general.
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on September 22, 2001
Now that we live in a country where terrorists crash into skyscrapers, we find ourselves on the brink of war. More than ever, it is of tantamount importance that we remember our nations' past errors. To ignore what our parents and grandparents have lived and learned will set the stage for repetition of persecution of the innocent. The Japanese-Americans on the west coast during WWII were snatched from their homes, jobs and lives. They were placed in internment camps and held for no other reason than the slant of their eyes. After years of living behind barbed wire and treated no better than animals, they were released and sent "home". What they found was their homes and property repossessed, businesses destroyed, and replacements at their jobs. For a proud and self-reliant people, it was the ultimate degradation. Farewell to Manzanar is an eloquent reminder that America is not immune to racial fear and hysteria. To avoid a perpetuation of hate and bias, we must educate our children. I read this book at the age of ten and have continued to re-read it for the last 20 years. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston has educated generations with this detailed account of her family's ordeal. I wish this book was required reading in all public schools.
0Comment41 of 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 9, 1999
I bought this memoir for our church library because it is an excellent personal story about living in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War Two. It is a book about paradoxes: the differences between American living and Japanese traditions; the pride of being Japanese American and the shame of being suspected as traitors; and the dichotomy between an America fighting for freeedom while legislating forced incarceration of American citizens. This book will appeal to students who have studied World War Two and the Holocaust because it turns the spotlight on the hypocrisy of the American government. Although people of the time might say, "things were different then," I would say "yes, they were" and point to this racist example of something America should never do to its people again. This book would also appeal to adults. Most of the baby boomers who I have asked to read this book have all liked it for its truth and plaintive, ethereal ending. An excellent memoir. Congratulations Jean, on a beautiful book.
0Comment15 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 5, 2002
Farewell to Manzanar was a wonderful story of courage. The courage of a child. The courage of an adult who learn to forgive and not hold in bitterness. To learn how to love herself and to fall in love dispite the turmoils of her life. What an awesome testimony. I applaud Jeanne for sharing this story and having the courage to let go. Her story was written so well, that as I read it I invisioned the events, her dance class with the ballerina trying to keep her dignity, her night outside the camp under the stars, her Dad's tantrums and abuse of her mother, and his feeling of losing control over his faimly's and his own life, the small space that they had to live in and the joy of moving to a larger space. And lastly the day that they left unsure what thier life would be like outside the camp. It was required that I read this book for a Sociology Class, but it opened my eyes to so much more. I will be giving this book to my teenage son to read. He hopes to one day visit Japan and is fascinated with the culture. So, I will be giving him this book to read so he can get a whole picture.
0Comment9 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon April 22, 2007
Jeanne is only seven years old and living in California when Pearl Harbor is attacked. Her parents were from Japan but had been living in the United States for most of their lives. Jeanne and her eight older siblings had all been born in this country and raised as English-speaking Americans. Jeanne's father is now a fisherman who owns two of his own fishing boats. Their family is moderately successful.

All of their success and security ends when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. All of a sudden, people begin looking at Japanes Americans, who are not allowed to become citizens, as the enemy. The American government is terrified that people of Japanese background will pass secrets to the Japanese who are attacking us, so the government takes rights away from anyone who has Japanese blood.

Jeanne's family is considered a particular danger, because they live on the west coast and they fish. They are no longer allowed to fish. Their boats are confiscated. They are then sent to Manzanar, a relocation camp further inland, where thousands of Japanese Americans are sent to live in a fenced-in area until the war is over.

When they first arrive at Manzanar, things are pretty bad. The barracks have been hastily constructed and do not do much to keep out the cold or the dust swirling all around. They are not large enough for families to live comfortably. The food that is served is almost inedible, because the people planning the meals have no concept of what Japanese people eat. Worst of all, though, is the knowledge of the people living there that their government doesn't trust them.

Jeanne and her family are forced to live at this camp for years. This book is an honest look at what the camp was like and what effect it had on Jeanne's family to be stationed there.

I liked that Jeanne doesn't portray her family as perfect. They have as many problems as any other family, and her father is especially flawed. Before I read this book I didn't know much about the Japanese camps, so it was interesting for me to get to know a whole new aspect of the war that isn't discussed as much as the things happening overseas.

This was one person's story, which is both a strength and a weakness. It offers a first-hand account of day to day life, but it lacks in well-rounded historical information. I would like to have know what the government's reasoning was, and how the authorities justified keeping these people locked up for so long.
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on November 15, 2002
I thought Farewell to Manzanar was a very sad book.I though it was sad because Jeanne's family was torn apart. Another reason I thought this book was sad was because the Japanese-Americans were treated like like dogs for something they had nothing to do with. This book made me realize that some people's lives are alot worse then my own. After I read this book I really began to appreciate my life.
When the Japanese-Americans were thrown into the camps, it just shows how bad they were treated. Sure, many people thought that the Japanese-americans were spy's, but who wouldn't? Most Japanese families eat dinner together, but when they were thrown into the camps they were forced to split up! Those few years of WWII really tore some Japanese families apart. I feel sorry for them and hope that it never happens again.
7.2 N.U
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on January 30, 2006
This is an excellent book for learning about the Japanese Internment. It was reccomended to me by my English teacher, and she was right about how well everything is described. I reccomend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the Japanese Internment.
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VINE VOICEon July 26, 2008
I could not believe there were one-star reviews until I read them and saw they were written by kids. Obviously part of their 8th grade class assignment was to write a review of the book for This book is really not for junior-high level kids, as they will find it boring. And unless they are familiar with Asian-American culture or know somebody who is Asian-American, it will be difficult for them to relate to this book at all. One kid reviewer said the book might have been better if there was violence! Those kids would have been better off watching the Made-For-TV movie that was based on the book.

It is of great interest to those wanting to learn about this shameful part of American history, and for those wanting to learn about Asian American history. As a mother of a half-Asian son, this will definitely be a book he needs to read. I applaud Jean Wakasuki-Houston for writing this book, and to me, it rates up there as a must-read with "The Diary of Anne Frank." Both are important testimonies to the horrors and racism of WWII, and hopefully future generations can learn from them.
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on May 20, 2002
I had to read this book for english class. My english teacher, Mrs.Friedman, said it is a very good book. I didnt beleive her until i read it. It is probally the best book i have ever read. Ithas to do with all of these real life situations. It is very realistic and it shows you what dedicated japanese americans had to go through to be a citzen in our country. It is a very good and educational book. It has a lot of good information and is a very wonderful book.l This is what farewell To Manzanar is like through the eyes of a 10 year old 6th grader.
0Comment4 of 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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